<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Top Stories]]>Copyright 2018 https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego https://www.nbcsandiego.com en-usFri, 14 Dec 2018 21:44:51 -0800Fri, 14 Dec 2018 21:44:51 -0800NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Comedian Reclaims Smile Taken Away by Facial Paralysis]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 17:44:55 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/brian+apprille.png

On any given Thursday night at the Mad House Comedy Club in downtown San Diego, standup comedian Brian Apprille takes the stage and makes people laugh.

Apprille is incredibly animated on stage and is a master of impressions, but in May of 2009 viral meningitis and a disease called Ramsey Hunt Syndrome paralyzed half his face and nearly stole his smile.

"I went into like a very dark place. I was depressed and I didn't want to die but I didn't want to exist if that makes sense,” he said.

For Apprille, the physical impairment and its emotional impact were equally devastating.

“Your sense of self dies,” he said. “So you're dealing with the loss of who you were and what your life was.”

Embarrassed and self-conscious, his standup career came to a standstill.

“I couldn't go on stage with my face drooping,” Apprille said. “My eye didn't close for over nine months. That's when I first started getting some healing. I had total hearing loss in my left ear and it just shattered my world."

Apprille said he also struggled in public.

“People thought I was drunk,” he said. “People thought I was angry. People think I'm antisocial. I just can't express myself with my face the way that I normally used to.”

But with time, Apprille developed an ability to find humor in his challenges and quickly realized that humor was the key to rediscovering the zeal he had lost.  

"I said I have to go out and make fun of this because there's no other way for me to feel better. I have to in order to remove the power that it had over me and get out of that depression,” he said.

Apprille started testing out his facial paralysis jokes on family and friends. After some fine-tuning, he began incorporating them in his material. Finally, he said he was ready to get on stage again.

“When I first start doing the joke it gets really quiet in the room because it's kind of a serious topic. But when everyone sees that I'm OK with it and I found a positive twist to it, everyone kind of laughs and goes along with it,” he said.

The ability to joke about his disability has helped Apprille heal emotionally and now he's now using his platform to create awareness and support.

His friend and fellow comedian Lisa Gilbert said he is inspiring people everywhere.

"It's anywhere from 50 to 2,000 people that are looking at you,” she said. “And if it's a big audience then you're on a big screen with your face with paralysis and all on that big screen. Yeah, that's very vulnerable. But Brian does it with grace."

Friend Matin Atrushi, also a comedian, said he admires Brian for his talent and courage.

"He just lets people know what is happening in his life. And that it's OK. He's doing OK. And he’s making people laugh, which he loves," Atrushi said.

Apprille is currently in the process of auditioning for "America's Got Talent" and was even considered as a replacement voice actor on "The Simpsons."

Off the stage, Apprille attended a support group near Los Angeles for people suffering from facial paralysis and Bell’s Palsy. The experience connecting with others who could relate to his situation was life-changing.

“I saw this big community of people who could just walk into a room and look at somebody and go, ‘I know,’ without saying a word,” Apprille said.

The experience was so meaningful that it inspired Apprille to start a support group for people with facial paralysis and their loved ones, the first of its kind in San Diego.

“I've been able to touch so many people's lives with my story, and those relationships and those comments and those hugs -- you can't really put a price on that,” he said.

Apprille has also launched a podcast called Unique Smiles, to reach out to an audience he uniquely understands.

"I remember what it was like when I first got Ramsey Hunt Syndrome and how low I was and how sad and how alone I felt and to find those other people and just have that human connection of kindness, it makes all the difference in the world," he said. “I also want to encourage people that they can still chase their dreams and still live an amazing life and still be great no matter what you look like as far as that or how you feel about yourself,” he said.

Rediscovering laughter has also helped him restore his health. He's lost 152 pounds. He jokes about that too.

“I think in life if you can laugh at whatever is causing you pain you remove the power that it has over you,” he said.

Apprille's facial paralysis and the daily pain he suffers will likely never go away. And while his condition may have partially stolen his smile, finding the humor in his reality has helped him rediscover the joy of living.

"If you'd told me ten years ago that I would consider this a blessing I would say you're crazy. But it really has been a blessing. It's changed my life tremendously," he said. “And if I can help be that face of facial paralysis and raise awareness for people then I'm so happy and so blessed to do so.”

To join the San Diego Support Group for Facial Paralysis, send an email to facialparalysisgroupsan@gmail.com.

You can follow Apprille on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook.

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<![CDATA[Former Valley Center HS Security Guard Arrested ]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 14:28:16 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Steve-Duncan-121418.jpg

A former employee at Valley Center High School was arrested Monday on suspicion of multiple counts of online sexual exploitation of children and sending harmful material to minors. 

Steven L. Duncan, 65, was taken into custody by members of the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. 

He's accused of receiving images from underage children. No details were given about the images involved in the allegation.

Duncan was once employed at Valley Center High School and investigators said he was known to be in communication with or following former students through social media. 

In a statement released Friday, the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District confirmed Duncan worked as a security guard at the high school from 2003 until his "separation from the district" in June 2014. 

District officials said none of Duncan's victims are from Valley Center. Read the district's full statement here.

Victims live in the U.S. and other countries, officials said. 

Anyone who believes they have information regarding Duncan and the allegations may call the task force at (858) 715-7100.

Valley Center High School is located on Cole Grade Road and serves approximately 4,000 students.

This is a developing story.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Judge in Texas Strikes Down Affordable Care Act]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 18:14:57 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/acaAP_181540450295.jpg

A federal judge in Texas on Friday struck down the Affordable Care Act, ruling that former President Barack Obama's signature domestic legislation has fallen down like a losing game of "Jenga."

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth sided with the argument put forward by a coalition of Republican-leaning states, led by Texas, that Obamacare could no longer stand now that there's no penalty for Americans who don't buy insurance, NBC News reported.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[DA Reviews Officer-Involved Shootings, In-Custody Deaths]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 14:59:16 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Jason-Santana.jpg

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office ruled officers acted reasonably under the circumstances in eight officer-involved shootings and four in-custody deaths. 

Twelve letters were released Friday to local law enforcement agencies informing them of the results of the DA Office’s review. 

"Our job is to deliver equal justice that is fair under the law for everyone," said District Attorney Summer Stephan, adding that the release of any video in these cases must be respectful to the families of those who have died or have been injured as well as to the officers involved.

In all of the incidents, the officers bear no criminal liability for their actions, Stephan said.

The DA will provide video and other details regarding the following investigations: 

Kristopher Birtcher - October 14, 2017 

A stun gun was deployed and maximum restraints used after Kristopher Birtcher was resisting San Diego County sheriff's deputies' attempts to detain him. The incident took place near the Hobby Lobby on Grand Avenue in San Marcos.  Deputies believed he was under the influence of drugs and gave him Naloxone to treat what they believed was a drug overdose. Birtcher's condition worsened on the way to a hospital where he was pronounced dead in the emergency room. An autopsy determined the cause of death was sudden cardiac arrest while restrained and acute methamphetamine intoxication, Stephan said. Here is the full report.

James Lacy - August 7, 2017

James H. Lacey was shot and killed in Banker's Hill after he reportedly threatened to shoot two deputies who were trying to evict him from his 2nd Avenue apartment. The 47-year-old was shot by two San Diego County sheriff's deputies. Read the report released Friday by the DA's office here.

Oscar Leal - February 28, 2018

Oscar Leal, 37, was arrested by SDSO deputies for being under the influence of a controlled substance after he called 911 several times and was being taken to the Vista Detention Facility when he began to behave oddly, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office said. At the jail, Leal became unresponsive. Read the full report on the incident here.

Alexander Ochoa - September 22, 2017

Oceanside police encountered Alexander Ochoa, 26, who they say was armed with a knife on Marron Road near College Boulevard, in the parking lot of the Kohl's Department store. Bean bags and K-9 officers were deployed before Ochoa pulled out a handgun, officers said. Officers opened fire, killing Ochoa. Read the results of the prosecutors' investigation here.

Osbaldo Ramirez - March 17, 2018 

Osbaldo Ramirez Jimenez, 50, died at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido from gunshot wounds suffered in the encounter with police in the parking lot of the Valley View Casino & Hotel. Escondido police were the first officers to encounter Ramirez as they responding to a family disturbance on Timber Glen. Ramirez fled the neighborhood in a car and refused to yield for law enforcement officers. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department (SDSO) and San Pasqual Tribal Police were called to help. At least one law enforcement officer fired, fatally injuring Ramirez. Here is the full report from the DA Office's review.

Paul Silva - February 22, 2018

Paul Silva, 39, was schizophrenic but was not on his prescribed medication when his mother called San Diego police to have him taken to a medical facility for treatment, the family said. 

Stephan said the mother called police because her son was banging on her windows demanding entry. Silva's mother told officers her son was under the influence of methamphetamine, Stephan said. 

Silva was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of a controlled substance, the district attorney said. 

He was taken to the Central Jail downtown and handed over to San Diego County sheriff's deputies.

"During the time deputies were evaluating Silva for release they noticed he was behaving erratically, harming himself by running into the walls and throwing himself onto the floor," Stephan said.  

Silva refused deputies' requests to exit his cell, she added. 

After a tactical team arrived, a team of deputies entered the cell and restrained Silva to remove him from the cell.

"Silva went into cardiac arrest and became unresponsive," Stephan said.

Silva was taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with anoxic brain injury, or an injury that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen.  He was removed from life support weeks after his arrest.

The family's attorney said a stun gun was used on Silva while he was in custody.  Here is the report released by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

Jose Trujillo - July 25, 2018

San Diego County sheriff's deputies opened fire on Jose Trujillo after a pursuit that reached speeds over 100 miles per hour. The pursuit began in Vista at about 8:45 p.m. when Trujillo refused to yield to deputies. During the pursuit, officials say Trujillo called 911 and informed the dispatcher that he had a loaded 9mm handgun and wanted to commit "suicide by cop." When the vehicle reached the Los Penasquitos Lagoon, Trujillo got out of the vehicle. Two deputies opened fire and shot Trujillo in the upper torso. Read the full report released by the DA's office here. 

Robert Westbrook - September 8, 2017

Robert Westbrook, 31, was shot by a deputy after he allegedly refused to follow commands, pulling out a replica handgun in the confrontation. State Route 125 was closed for hours as a result of the incident. San Diego County sheriff's deputies were initially called to check on the welfare of a man who was threatening to harm himself. Westbrook was found inside a parked car on the freeway. Deputies say Westbrook stepped out of the car with a handgun. That's when the deputy opened fire, striking and injuring him. Read the DA's investigation results for this case here.

Guillermo Corrales - April 16, 2018

Guillermo Corrales died while in custody after a family member called 911 to report Corrales may be under the influence of drugs and was injuring himself. San Diego police officers found Corrales being held down by his nephew because he had been thrashing about and hitting his head on the floor. Officers handcuffed him and called for paramedics to enter the bedroom. Soon after, paramedics determined Corrales' heart had stopped and asked officers to remove the handcuffs so they could continue CPR. He was rushed to a nearby hospital. The medical examiner determined the cause of death was the effects of methamphetamine. Corrales also had fentanyl "on board," Stephan said. 

Jason Santana - November 29, 2017

Jason Santana was in a stolen car in a closed city park. Officers awakened Santana and his companion and interviewed them. Santana was told to keep his hands in view, Stephan said. 

"Suddenly Mr. Santana reached forward, started the car's engine and tried to close the car's driver's door while simultaneously putting the car in reverse," Stephan said. 

The driver's door struck the officer and knocked him over, she said. 

"The officer fired his pistol once as he moved out of the way of the vehicle because he feared he was going to get run over," the district attorney said. 

Santana was struck in the arm and drove off. He was eventually taken into custody and has been sentenced to three years in custody. 

Read the results of the DA's Office review here.

Other cases reviewed involved Paul Rivera and Javier Gomez.

Not all video from all the reviews was screened due to time constraints. 

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<![CDATA[Threat of Violence Sends Deputies to Santana High School]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 12:53:51 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Santana-High-School-0304.jpg

Deputies were called to Santana High School in Santee Friday morning to investigate an alleged threat of violence, the sheriff’s department confirmed.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) Lt. Karla Menzies said a parent called 911 at around 11 a.m. to report that her daughter had received some sort of message saying someone had threatened to shoot up the school.

As of 11:10 a.m., the school was not on lockdown as deputies headed to the campus. By 11:20 a.m., the SDSO said deputies had cleared the campus.

Seventeen years ago, Santana High School was the scene of a mass shooting. On March 5, 2001, Santana High School freshman Charles “Andy” Williams, 15, opened fire at the school, killing two students – Brian Zuckor, 14, and Randy Gordon, 17 – and wounding 13 others.

Friday also marked the 6th anniversary of the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 first-graders and six teachers dead. A bomb threat Friday morning forced the evacuation of that school. Police there said the threat was not believed to be credible but officials took it seriously.

Menzies said a school resource officer would continue to investigate Friday's incident at Santana High School.

NBC 7 reached out to Grossmont Union High School District spokesperson Catherine Martin for additional details. Martin said deputies had investigated and "deemed the threat unfounded."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Chris Christie Takes Himself Out of Running for WH Chief of Staff]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:03:23 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_17299747311765-Chris-Christie-White-House.jpg

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he does not want to be White House chief of staff, just hours after multiple reports said he was President Donald Trump's leading choice for the job.

"It's an honor to have the President consider me as he looks to choose a new White House Chief of Staff," Christie said in a statement obtained by NBC News, first provided to The New York Times. "However, I have told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment. As a result, I have asked him to no longer keep me in any of his considerations for this post."

Christie met with Trump Thursday night about the White House chief of staff job and was considered a "top contender" for the role, sources told NBC News earlier Friday.

Christie's candidacy was being boosted both publicly and privately by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a source told NBC.

Axios and Bloomberg also reported Friday that Christie was a top contender, and a Washington Post reporter tweeted that the paper was about to report the same thing when his statement landed. 

Christie, one of the most unpopular governors in recent American history, was nonetheless an outspoken supporter of the president's, and for a time led his transition team.

At one point he was also considered to be in the running for attorney general. 

But analysts questioned whether Christie could actually fit in the administration given his history with the president's son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner.

In 2005, as U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Christie put Kushner's father in prison on tax and other charges. 

Photo Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Deadline to Get Health Coverage by New Year Extended]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 21:20:42 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CoveredCAhomepage.JPG

The first deadline to sign up for health insurance for 2019 through California's health insurance exchange is quickly approaching.

Those who want to have their health insurance coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2019, must sign up on Covered California by midnight on Friday, Dec. 21.

Unlike the federal open-enrollment period, which ends Dec. 15, California's open enrollment continues through Jan. 15.

So far, roughly 1.2 million people have renewed their insurance through Covered California. That number is slightly lower than last year's. The agency said the reason could be a lack of awareness.

Though the open enrollment period started Oct. 15, the agency decided to wait until after the mid-term election to start advertising. Another reason for lower enrollment is the removal of the individual mandate penalty. 

The original Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," required everyone to have insurance or pay a penalty. The Republican Congress, in December 2017, removed the penalty effective Jan. 1, 2019.

"While we know that the financial help offered through Covered California is the big motivator for many people to enroll, with the penalty removed we do expect some consumers to roll the dice and go without health coverage," Covered California executive director Peter V. Lee said.

The agency said enrollment is expected to drop between 7 to 18 percent because of removal of the mandate.

The high cost was another reason why some are forgoing health insurance. Trey Barkley, 32, went without insurance last year after his company stopped providing health insurance for its employees.

"I could not afford it," he said. "The cost was too much for me per month because I ended making just enough money that it was going to cost way out of my range."

Barkley was referring to subsidies offered by Covered Calfornia. About 90 percent of people enrolled through Covered California qualify for some sort of subsidy, which covered an average of 80 percent of their monthly premium, the agency said.

According to its research, 82 percent of uninsured people do not know that they qualify for financial assistance. 

"Being covered means you are protected from medical bills that can range from tens of thousands of dollars into the millions," Lee said. "That's why it is so important to take a look their options and find out if they are eligible for financial assistance to help bring that coverage within reach."

Craig Gussin, a licensed health insurance underwriter with the Auerbach & Gussin Insurance and Financial Services in Carlsbad, said high-deductible policies are available for as little as $1 a month for qualified California residents.

Gussin said the Bronze-level plans typically offer three doctor visits per year for $75 per visit. Those basic plans have a $6,300 deductible, and typically pay 100 percent of medical costs after the patient has paid a total of about $7,000 in "out-of-pocket" costs.

Despite that high deductible and co-pay, such basic coverage can help the policyholder avoid crushing medical debt and possible bankruptcy from an unexpected major illness or accident.

Nearly 250,000 people are uninsured in the San Diego-Carlsbad area, of that more than 102,000 are eligible for coverage through Covered California. Statewide, an estimated 1.1 million uninsured people are eligible to enroll in Covered California or Medi-Cal, the agency said.

Gussin said his typical customer pays about $50 to $100 a month for a more comprehensive Covered California policy with a lower deductible. Some families qualify for premium subsidies of up to $1,000 a month on a $1,800 premium.

Barkley said he plans to look at Covered California's site again this year to see if he qualifies for any subsidies now that his girlfriend has health coverage through her work.

Covered California has a Shop and Compare tool for people to see if they qualify for any assistance.

Photo Credit: CoveredCA]]>
<![CDATA[Black Smoke Fills Air Over MCAS Miramar]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 08:21:58 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/vlcsnap-2018-12-14-08h09m15s587.png

Residents living near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar were concerned this morning when they spotted thick, black smoke in the air over the base. 

Using Twitter, MCAS Miramar officials reassured the community that the smoke was from a training exercise for their airfield firefighters.

Commuters driving along Interstate 15 saw the smoke hanging in the air on the east side of the military base. 

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Former Padre Help Surprise Northern California Fire Victim]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:51:33 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Xavier+Nady+Donates+to+NorCal+Fire+Victim.jpg

Former Padres outfielder Xavier Nady may be retired after playing 15 years in the major leagues but he still knows how to step up to the plate when needed.

Nady donated a package full of signed cards, photos, baseballs and a pair of batting gloves he used as a pro to a 10-year-old Northern California boy named Colton who lost his prized baseball memorabilia collection in the fast-moving Camp Fire.

The Camp Fire is the most destructive wildfire in California history and for Colton it will be remembered as the awful thing that destroyed his home, including the 51 signed baseballs he kept tucked away in his room.

A friend of Colton's family recently put a message up on a closed Facebook group of "Physician Moms" with roughly 70,000 members worldwide asking for anyone with baseball connections to help get the boy a ball or two.

Namrita Kapoor, a San Diego mom and doctor, saw the message and even though she didn't know anyone involved felt the need to do something.

Kapoor reached out to a friend, who reached out to another friend, who happened to be Nady.

Not only did Nady play professional baseball, but like young Colton, he is a fan of the game. During his playing days, he collected autographs from teammates and players he admired.

Kapoor knew Nady would help out, but she never expected such a large donation.

"I just thought maybe one or two baseballs," she said. "So I look in the package and it was just the most thoughtful sweet thing, especially the handwritten letter to Colton."

Nady didn't just donate his own autographed items, he threw in signed baseballs from other players such as Chipper Jones, Eric Hosmer and Stephen Strasburg.

Kapoor says Nady's generosity is proof of the good that can come through the power of social media when people make connections in an effort to help one another.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Family's Home Burglarized While Dad's in Hospital For Cancer Treatment]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:30:01 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Cancer_Patient_s_Home_Burglarized_During_Hospital_Stay.jpg

A National City family’s home was burglarized just weeks before the holidays and what made things more tragic is that the father is undergoing treatment for cancer.

Adrian Ortega was diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer in May. The cancer spreading and his health continues to decline.

Thursday, his wife Jessica Tolentino received more terrible news from her aunt.

“She's like well the lights on, the door is open she was like, ‘I’m not gonna go in. I don't know who is in there,’ so she called the cops,” Tolentino said.

Thieves broke into her home and took just about everything they can get their hands on — Christmas presents, diapers, an Xbox, important documents and Ortega’s cancer medication.

"They took random stuff and they took stuff that couldn't be replaced, like videos when he was in the Army, all of his Army pictures, his dog tag, memorabilia he kept from the army," Tolentino told NBC 7.

Ortega’s two-door Honda Acura RSX was also stolen. Tolentino is due to give birth to the couple’s third child next month.

During a time where many people are joyous, Tolentino said the family is going through a lot.

“It doesn’t even feel like Christmas,” she said. “Our spirits are so down.”

Ortega’s cousin posted a GoFundMe to raise funds to help the family through this tough time.

<![CDATA[Lead in Water at Ocean Beach, Garfield Elementary Schools]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:48:03 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/water+faucet+generic.jpg

Parents at two elementary schools this week were informed that drinking water on their children’s campuses tested positive for lead. 

Earlier this week, San Diego Unified School District workers found lead in water from four water fountains at Garfield Elementary School. The amount of lead in one of the four fountains was found to be above the federal limit, according to a letter sent home to Garfield parents

To read the District's testing results for Garfield Elementary, click here.

On Friday, the district informed parents of students at Ocean Beach Elementary school that they had also found lead in the drinking water at the school’s fountains. 

To read the District's testing results for Ocean Beach Elementary, click here.

NBC 7 Investigates has been tracking the testing of water in San Diego County’s schools for more than a year. 

Samer Naji, a spokesperson for the district confirmed the findings. 

Naji told NBC 7 Investigates that the amounts of lead detected in water from most of these fountains were below federal guidelines or 15 parts-per-billion but were above the San Diego Unified School District standard for taking action or 5 parts-per-billion. The only fountain that had more than 15 parts-per-billion of lead was at Garfield. 

Naji said the District was finalizing a report showing the test results, as well as a letter that will be sent home to Ocean Beach Elementary School parents. 

A meeting has been scheduled for parents at Garfield Elementary School for Tuesday, Dec. 18. 

San Diego Unified said students at both campuses were provided bottled water if there wasn’t a water fountain close by that did not test positive for lead. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has found no amount of lead in water is safe for children to drink.

<![CDATA[IB Man Convicted of Travelling to Have Sex with 9-Year-Old]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 16:39:34 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/gavGettyImages-539557007.jpg

A federal jury has found an Imperial Beach man guilty of traveling to Atlanta to have sex with a 9-year-old girl.


The jury on Thursday convicted 39-year-old Craig Alan Castaneda of Imperial Beach, California, after a three-day trial.

An undercover FBI agent posted an ad on Craigslist in April 2015 posing as a mother seeking a "teacher" for her 9-year-old daughter. Prosecutors say Castaneda responded, describing his prior experience molesting children, including one as young as 4.

Castaneda continued to correspond with the undercover agent for several weeks and made plans to travel to Atlanta. In one of the last messages before boarding a plane, he instructed the "mother" to buy sex toys and lubricant.

FBI agents arrested Castaneda when he arrived at the Atlanta airport on May 2, 2015.

Photo Credit: Fairfax Media via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook: Unshared Photos of 6.8M Users Possibly Exposed]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 13:03:31 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP_18233646267301.jpg

Facebook revealed on Friday that a bug in its platform may have allowed third-party apps to have access to a broad range of user photos, including pictures that users uploaded to Facebook but did not share.

Facebook said in a statement on its website that the bug may have affected 6.8 million users and up to 1,500 apps between Sept. 13 and Sept. 25. The company did not say when it discovered the issue.

“When someone gives permission for an app to access their photos on Facebook, we usually only grant the app access to photos people share on their timeline,” Facebook wrote. “In this case, the bug potentially gave developers access to other photos, such as those shared on Marketplace or Facebook Stories. The bug also impacted photos that people uploaded to Facebook but chose not to post. For example, if someone uploads a photo to Facebook but doesn't finish posting it - maybe because they've lost reception or walked into a meeting - we store a copy of that photo so the person has it when they come back to the app to complete their post." 

The social media company said it will put out tools next week for the app developers to see which users were impacted by the bug, and it will help those developers delete the exposed photos.

Facebook said it will also notify its users who were potentially affected with a Facebook alert. It also encouraged people to visit the Help Center to see if they or apps they use were affected.

The problem comes in a year fraught with privacy scandals and other problems for the world's biggest social network. Revelations that the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data from as many as 87 million users led to congressional hearings and changes in what sorts of data Facebook lets outside developers access. In June, a bug affecting privacy settings led some users to post publicly by default regardless of their previous settings. This bug affected as many as 14 million users over several days in May. 

On Thursday, to counter the bad rap it's gotten around privacy as of late, Facebook hosted a one-day "pop-up" to talk to users about their settings and whatever else may be on their mind. Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan was on hand to answer questions. Asked by a reporter what grade she'd give Facebook for its privacy work in the past year, she said "B." By 2019, she said she hopes the improvements will result in an "A." 

Privacy experts might call it grade inflation. In any case, the company has its work cut out before it makes the perfect grade.

With two more weeks left of the year, it's possible there's still time for another privacy kerfuffle at Facebook.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Wilfredo Lee/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[IBWC: Tijuana Wastewater Spill Stopped]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 12:53:34 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Tijuana-sewage-spill.jpg

A sewage spill that dumped millions of gallons of wastewater into the Tijuana River Valley was stopped at 11 a.m. Friday, the International Boundary Water Commission said.

The failure in a sewage collection main in the city of Tijuana was reported Monday.

Lori Kuczmanski, Public Affairs Officer for the IBWC said the flow was stopped and a meeting was slated for Monday, Dec. 17 to discuss the spill with Mexican authorities.

On Tuesday, the Mexican section of the IBWC told the U.S. section an estimated 6 to 7 million gallons of sewage per day was flowing into the Tijuana River Valley and into the Pacific Ocean as a result of the break, the U.S. section said.

On Wednesday, the IBWC released images of what appear to be sinkholes on the property of an auto repair business in Tijuana. The agency claimed after the Tijuana water utility (CESPT) was notified of the sinkholes, workers diverted water flow from the business in the Colector Poniente in southeast Tijuana to a stormwater collector which drains into the Tijuana River.

By Wednesday, the flow of wastewater reaching the Tijuana River had been lowered to approximately 4.4 million gallons a day, Kuczmanski said. 

The County Department of Environmental Health lifted the closure at Silver Strand and Coronado Tuesday, saying that the shorelines were not impacted by the sewage line break because currents were moving south.

The DEH said it will continue to monitor water quality and will alert the public if anything changes.

Photo Credit: IBWC
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<![CDATA[How to Talk to Children About Dangerous 'Momo Challenge']]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 12:32:39 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Momo+Challenge+New.jpg

Professionals are warning parents that they should talk to their kids as a new viral challenge spreads across social media and puts children in potential danger.

The "Momo Challenge" is an online cyberbullying game targeting young kids and teenagers through Facebook and WhatsApp. It threatens children with violence if they don't commit potentially dangerous activities.

Children who participate in the challenge are first sent a message with a photo of a woman with bulging eyes, an elongated face and a large, contorted smile.

Accompanying the photo is a message that directs children to commit various acts - some simple, some more violent - and show photographic proof of those acts or risk being harmed.

NBC10 spoke to one young New Jersey boy who was sent the photo by a classmate.

"Momo stabs you with a knife when you're sleeping at night," said the boy, who is not being identified by NBC10 because of his age.

The game has reportedly been linked to suicides in other countries but authorities have not offered proof of that connection.

In New Jersey, the Cape May Police Department posted a Facebook message to parents warning that, "This 'game' is believed to be a way for people to hack accounts and is psychologically manipulative towards kids and teens."

Meghan Walls, a pediatric psychologist, says parents should take preemptive action and gently ask their younger children if they know about the challenge.

"Say something like, 'There's some scary things that pop up on phones and tablets, and if you ever see something like that, come get me,'" Walls said.

When it comes to older kids, Walls said it's not realistic for parents to threaten to take their phones away, but they should have an open dialogue with their children.

Parents should let those older kids know that the challenge is cyberbullying, it's potentially dangerous and that they're trusting their kids to let them know what's going on.

"Especially as kids get older and they're teenagers, they want some of that autonomy and they deserve some of that autonomy as long as they can show you they're responsible enough," Wells said.

<![CDATA[Locals Support Barbershop After Racial Slur Vandalism]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 17:46:02 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Melissa-Christopher-Cage-Originality-Barbershop-2.jpg

A husband and wife team who own a barbershop and salon in North Park are feeling the love from their community in the face of the hate that struck their small business earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Christopher and Melissa Cage showed up to work at their barbershop on 30th Street, Originality Barber Salon, like any normal day. As they approached the business, they noticed a neighbor looking closely at the ground outside the entrance.

Melissa looked down and saw a hateful, racially-charged phrase scrolled on the ground. The tears welled up in her eyes.

“I was mad. I almost started crying,” she told NBC 7. “I was like, ‘You know what? I can’t let this get to me. I’m just going to finish my day, clean it up, and go about my business.’”

The Cages recorded video of the slur on their phones to show to investigators. They rolled up their sleeves and began trying to remove the words before any of their clients could arrive for their haircuts. They called the police and filed a report.

Every emotion imaginable ran through their minds but, mostly, they just couldn't understand why someone would do this. They felt sadness for whoever had stooped this low.

“I would just hug them,” Melissa told NBC 7, referring to what she would do if the culprit were standing in front of her. “You must just have something going on with you – some demons – so I would just hug them.”

“I would shake his hand and say, ‘Thanks for the motivation,’” Christopher added. “Thanks for the motivation.”

The Cages have been in business in North Park for about a year. They’re not sure if their barbershop was specifically targeted but they think it’s possible.

The couple said Originality Barber Salon serves a diverse clientele. Everyone is welcome there.

“We get [clients] of all colors, religions, sex, everything – so it really doesn’t make sense of why they would do that over here,” Christopher added.

After police officers took a report at the barbershop, the Cages continued to clean up the sidewalk. 

They got some help from neighbors including the owners of the nearby Beerfish restaurant and Fall Brewing Company, who came over to the shop with a power-washer and made the words disappear.

The Cages also began receiving phone calls, messages and visits from clients, locals and other North Park business owners.

The outpouring of support, Christopher said, has been overwhelming.

He told NBC 7 Friday that locals have been dropping by the barbershop to tell them how much they want the Cages to continue to run their business in the neighborhood.

"People are coming in, telling us, 'Don't go anywhere. We want you here,'" Christopher added.

Melissa said that's the plan.

“You didn’t push us away; we’re here to stay,” said Melissa. “We’re going to continue to cut everybody’s hair. This is who we are. We can’t change our skin color. We’re here to stay.”

Christopher said they would stay focused on growing their business and providing quality service to the community.

"We have a family -- we're going to stay super positive," he said.

The barbershop is not equipped with security cameras but the couple plan to install cameras after this incident. They also hope police add more patrols to the neighborhood to keep this type of thing from happening to other business owners or residents.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[PICS: ALT 949's Not So Silent Night at Del Mar Arena]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:48:26 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/30+Seconds+to+Mars+12.9.18+Alex+Matthews+%282%29.jpg No humbugs allowed: 'Twas a festive night of epic performances when ALT 949's Not So Silent Night holiday show took over Del Mar Arena with Thirty Seconds to Mars, Elle King and more.

Photo Credit: Alex Matthews]]>
<![CDATA[Van Dyke Sentencing Set in Laquan McDonald Murder]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 17:38:55 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/VAN+DYKE+HEARING+-+12325417_34847500.jpg

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was convicted in October of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, will be sentenced on Jan. 18, a judge said Friday. 

The sentencing date followed a ruling denying motions for a new trial and to set aside a jury's verdict in the case.

Van Dyke appeared before Judge Vincent Gaughan for the second time since his conviction in a trial that captured the nation. He wore a prison-issued jumpsuit and a Department of Corrections windbreaker as he stood in open court.

Lawyers for both sides argued their positions on a motion filed by Van Dyke's defense seeking to set aside the jury's verdict convicting him of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. 

The judge denied that request. 

Attorneys then argued motions for a new trial, which was also denied by Gaughan. 

The ex-Chicago officer made his first post-trial appearance in October, but no sentencing date was set. Instead, Van Dyke's defense filed two new motions - one requesting a new trial and the other asking that the judge set aside the jury's verdict in his case. 

Van Dyke was convicted on Oct. 5 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the fatal shooting of McDonald

The long-awaited verdict came almost exactly four years after Van Dyke shot 17-year-old McDonald 16 times on the city's Southwest Side.

Dashcam video showing the shooting shook the city and the nation, sparking massive protests and calls for justice.

Van Dyke's attorneys have maintained the Chicago officer was wrongly charged, saying he was acting within the law when he shot the teen, who at the time was an armed felon fleeing a crime scene.

They have vowed to continue fighting the decision.

Not long after his conviction, Van Dyke was transferred to the Rock Island County Jail in far northwestern Illinois, one of 45 jail detainees who are being kept outside of Cook County.

The move was for security reasons, not due to any health concerns, a spokesman for the Cook County sheriff's office said, adding that Van Dyke was a high-profile case for whom more security was deemed appropriate. 

Second-degree murder carries a four- to 20-year prison sentence, but can also result in four years of probation instead of prison. Aggravated battery carries a six- to 30-year sentence, 85 percent of which must be served.

<![CDATA[Seniors Share Gripes Over Electric Scooters Clogging Sidewalks]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 06:23:23 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/SCOOTER+DOWN.jpg

A group of senior citizens living in Hillcrest raised their concerns about the misuse of electric scooters in their neighborhood.

They spent Thursday evening voicing their frustrations to City Councilmember Chris Ward at a meeting at the Trinity Manor Apartments. They say riders are leaving their scooters scattered on the ground, and complain that many of the riders are unlicensed.

“What happens when one of these kids hits you and you have now a claim? The kid is long gone,” one woman said.

Seniors say scooters, whether they have riders on them or not, have become a danger on the sidewalks.

David Voth told Councilman Ward he wants more enforcement on scooter regulations.

"I see underage kids riding these scooters like Kamikazes in the street,” he said. “They don't pay attention to the street signs, they don't pay attention to right of way."

Nick Machniski was frustrated with how scooters and bikes are just left anywhere.

"The bicycles that arrived for the rental on the street, they were all over the place as I remember. But is it my imagination? I'm not seeing them,” he said.

Machinski said it’s easy for anyone, young or old, to trip over a scooter or bike and hurt themselves.

The group doesn’t think the issue is going to go away any time soon.

Councilmen Ward listened to their concerns and said he will bring them to the City Council.

<![CDATA[Romano's Jewelers Owner Sentenced for Bilking Service Members]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 07:19:05 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Romano_s_JewelersOwner_Sentenced_for_Bilking_Service_Members.jpg

The owner of a chain of now-closed jewelry stores was sentenced Thursday to three months behind bars for preying on U.S. service members, California’s attorney general announced.

Ramil “Randy” Abalkhad, the owner of Romano’s Jewelers, was sentenced to three years probation and 90 days in jail for illegal financing and debt collection practices targeting sailors and Marines in San Diego.

NBC7 Investigates first broke the story about Romano's Jewelers more than 3 years ago.

“(Thursday’s) sentencing should send a clear message to them and others looking to commit predatory crimes against our service members,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “We intend to hold unscrupulous merchants and businesses fully accountable for their offenses.”

Abalkhad was also ordered to pay the victims back thousands of dollars.

According to the criminal complaint, between 2009 and 2014 Abalkhad instructed his employees to add unauthorized charges onto the store credit accounts of military customers. He also failed to fully disclose the terms of financing, such as monthly payments and interest rates.

When the service members fell behind on their payments, Romano’s Jewelers hired debt collectors who posed as attorneys and threatened the sailors and Marines with court-martial and other military disciplinary actions, according to the attorney general’s office.

Abalkhad was already sentenced on separate charges, filed by the San Diego District Attorney's office last year. 

Four other people, including Abalkhad's wife, Melina, were sentenced for their participation in the scheme.

<![CDATA[HiCaliber Horse Rescue Evicted for Not Paying Rent]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 18:27:00 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/JY_rAW+SOUND+Hi+Caliber+Horse+Rescue+Eviction.jpg

HiCaliber Horse Rescue, which has been facing animal cruelty and fraud allegations for months, was evicted from its Valley Center ranch Thursday.

Owners of the ranch told NBC 7 that San Diego County officials have been fining the property for creating a fire hazard because too many animals were living on the ranch. At one point, there were more than 200 horses living on the ranch, the owners said.

HiCaliber has been renting the ranch since September 2014. Brenda Markstein- Fox, one of the owners, said she gave the controversial group several warnings, but claims that HiCaliber and its founders, Michelle Knuttila and Romney Snyder, ignored those requests for improvements and then failed to pay rent for seven months.

Last month, the ranch owners won a judgment to evict HiCaliber. They are now suing the horse rescue group for $4.5 million in damages.

When San Diego County sheriff’s deputies arrived to evict the HiCaliber tenants, the group moved 23 horses to a neighbor's estate. At least two animals remained on the property on Friday.

“The destruction of the property is unbelievable,” Markstein-Fox said. “All the landscaping is gone. Inside, animals had lived – feces inside the houses. It’s just really is appalling.”

She said it will cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to repair that damage.

Markstein-Fox said HiCaliber's directors also failed to pay their utility bill for seven months, leading SDG&E to shut off power to the estate Thursday. She said the horse rescue owes the utility company more than $8,000.

Until a solution is found, Markstein-Fox said her property will be without water, because the only source of water is a well whose pump is powered by electricity.

NBC 7 was unable to reach HiCaliber's founders for comment. But an attorney for the non-profit group disputed some of the property owner's allegations and offered an explanation for the poor condition of the horse ranch.

"Considering the thousands of horses and hundreds of volunteers that have passed through HiCaliber Horse Rescue over the last several years, the wear and tear on the property is to be expected," Sean Jones told NBC 7. "While the HiCaliber Horse Rescue staff had plans in place for remediating any property damage prior to their exit, those plans have unfortunately been frustrated by the current eviction process."

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Eyes UTC Area for New Campus in San Diego]]> Thu, 13 Dec 2018 18:54:53 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/UTC-Area-generic-skyranger-7.jpg

Apple plans to open an office in San Diego, California along with several other cities, company officials announced Thursday.

"We know that it's going to be in the UTC area in the middle of the prominent tech cluster already," said Matt Sanford, Director of Economic Development, SD Regional EDC.

Apple plans to build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, that will create at least 5,000 jobs ranging from engineers to call-center agents while adding more luster to a Southwestern city that has already become a bustling tech hub.

The decision, announced Thursday, comes 11 months after Apple CEO Tim Cook disclosed plans to open a major office outside California on the heels of a massive tax cut on overseas profits, which prompted the company to bring about $250 billion back to the U.S.

"Ultimately having a big name like Apple is good for San Diego. Similar to Google being here, Teradata being here, Walmart labs and Amazon, it draws exposure to talent that San Diego is the place to be," Sanford said.

The company said it will also open offices in Seattle, and Culver City, California, each employing at least 1,000 workers over the next three years. Apple also pledged to add hundreds of jobs each in New York; Pittsburgh; Boston; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon.

UC San Diego engineering student Samir Damle believes it would be great to work in an environment a company like Apple provides. 

"You don't have to relocate to the Bay Area after you graduate and have to leave San Diego to find a job," Damle said. "That's fantastic."

Mayunk Kurkrna, another engineering student at UC San Diego, is also interested in working for the company. 

"They just make products so superior compared to others and I want to experience how the product development happens," Kurkrna said.

Read more about the company's overall announcement here.

The area near UC San Diego between the coast and Interstate 805 is known as the Golden Triangle. In the next four years, there will be at least 50 major public and private construction projects in this area, according to SANDAG. 

You can view the current and future projects using this interactive map. 

Photo Credit: SkyRanger 7]]>
<![CDATA[Sweetwater Union: Nearly 100 Teachers to Retire This Month]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 07:12:19 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sweetwater+union+high+school.JPG

Close to 100 teachers will be retiring from the Sweetwater Union High School District this month with an additional 50 retiring at the end of the school year, the teachers union told NBC 7 Thursday.

A total of 300 district employees agreed to take the early retirement offer. Those include certified and classified employees. 

The district recently made cuts to fill a $30 million budget gap. Along with offering eligible employees incentives to retire early, the district added two work furlough days for employees. 

The County Office of Education, which is in charge of making sure school districts can pay their bills, approved the district’s revised budget that was submitted last month.

The approval comes with conditions, including sending a financial adviser to help the district.

Sweetwater Education Association President Gene Chavira said 144 certified employees including teachers and counselors have taken the option for early retirement.  Of those, 94 will leave at the end of 2018. The remaining 50 will leave at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, Chavira said. 

Sweetwater Union High School District spokesperson Manny Rubio said the district does not have exact numbers about who took the option for early retirement and when those retirements would take effect.

He also said it was not a done deal and that the SUHSD Board of Trustees has to give final approval at a meeting on Monday, Dec. 17. 

Rubio said the district is working with an outside company to determine the real-time cost savings of the move to decide if it's worthwhile. The results from that analysis could come by Friday or early next week. 

New teachers will be hired to replace those retiring.

The idea of teachers leaving their students in the middle of the school year is concerning some parents.

"I don't know what the impact is going to be, whether or not there are some teachers that the kids are happy to get rid of," parent Jacinto Perez said. 'But I think the majority of teachers are probably well established and the kids are gonna miss those teachers that they're already working with."

Chavira said he's confident in his teachers' ability to get students over that hurdle.

"When a semester ends, there's always that possibility that students will come back to a different teacher anyway. I'm pretty confident that all the teachers that we have here are good teachers and prepared to take on new students," he said.

Chavira estimates a new teacher will earn between $50,000 and $60,000 annually. 

A veteran teacher with tenure in the district could earn up to $100,000, Chavira said. 

There are more than 2,000 teachers in the district, according to the SUHSD spokesperson. 

The district serves an estimated 40,000 students in 28 schools including 11 middle schools, 13 high schools and four alternative education sites.

Photo Credit: Steven Luke]]>
<![CDATA[Confessions of a Conflicted Chargers Fan]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 04:31:16 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/Rivers+Beats+KC.JPG

NBC 7's Derek Togerson sorts through some emotional stuff in this commentary

I’m conflicted.

I want to hate the Chargers. I want to want them to lose by 90 every week. I want to want them to be as big an embarrassment on the field as they are in the owner’s booth, which is awfully difficult to do.

I despise what the Spanos family did in moving the team 100 miles and an entire universe away. I don’t want that group to fail upwards like some kind of Goldman Sachs executives.

However, the last few weeks something that had been buried deep beneath the hatred of the people making the bad decisions has re-awoken:

I still really like those guys in the locker room.

I still get giddy with I see Philip Rivers finding Antonio Gates for 11 yards on 3rd and 10. I still like it when rookies like Derwin James and Justin Jackson, one who was expected to be a superstar and one who was a 7th round afterthought, both make big plays and are tickled to talk about it on camera.

After their win over the Steelers I shook their hands in the locker room and sincerely offered congratulations because it felt like old times. Watching them get back to the playoffs again with a comeback at Arrowhead Stadium put a smile on my face. It’s not the players’ fault the team moved.

But the team did move. The Chargers left us.

And there’s the conflict.

The last time the Chargers were in the playoffs the city of San Diego went bonkers. I was in the team hotel in Denver talking to Tom Telesco (another good guy I’m happy for). He looked out over the throng of San Diego football fans that had made the mile high trek and said he’d never seen a fan base react like this.

Keep in mind he was in Indianapolis during the Peyton Manning years.

That was when the Chargers represented America’s Finest City. My city. They don’t do that anymore.

I thought I could forget about the friendships and the good times that were had with the guys on the field and lump anyone involved with the team into one big ball of “Screw you for all eternity!”

That has proven impossible.

I recognize that the more success the players have the more success Deano has and that kills me. That person doesn’t deserve the chance to even THINK he had anything to do with team accomplishments.

But … the guys. There are too many guys that I want to see something good happen for.

Besides, no matter what they do the city of Los Angeles is not going to care. What the Dodgers did NOT do during the Baseball Winter Meetings made more news in L.A. than anything the Chargers DO do.

This is not a perfect situation. I’m too emotionally invested in that locker room to not get excited about what might be happening. This team is legitimately good enough to win a championship. So after way too much reflection and self-analysis I’ve landed on this conclusion:

I want Rivers and Gates to taste the Super Bowl more than I want Spanos to choke on the AFC Championship trophy.

Damn it.

Go Bolts.

<![CDATA[Del Taco Tests Plant-Based 'Meat' at San Diego Restaurants]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 12:02:07 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Del-Taco-Beyond-Meat-Taco-1.jpg

Mexican fast food chain Del Taco is planting a new item on menus at 16 San Diego-area restaurants: tacos filled with something called “Beyond Meat,” which, as the name suggests, isn’t meat at all.

Del Taco announced it would begin testing its “Beyond Tacos” menu items in San Diego locations Thursday – from Oceanside and Vista to Lemon Grove and El Cajon – as well as in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

The seasoned filling in those tacos, known as “Beyond Meat,” is made entirely out of plant-based protein – with the main ingredient being yellow peas – as well as coconut oil, ancho chili, onion, garlic, lime juice, oregano, and cumin. The recipe does not contain soy. A Los Angeles-based company of the same name creates the protein.

The company said the tacos feed into “a growing demand for vegan and vegetarian options” among patrons. Del Taco said it had successfully pilot-tested the product in Los Angeles and the next logical step was to offer Beyond Tacos across the larger Southern California region.

According to the company, the plant-based option offers “the same amount of protein and flavor as seasoned beef.”

The tacos, for now, include the vegan-friendly “Beyond Avocado Taco,” which includes the plant-based protein crumbles, avocado, lettuce and tomatoes in a crunchy shell. This taco is dairy-free. The other option is the vegetarian-friendly “Beyond Taco,” which includes all of the same ingredients, minus the avocado, plus grated cheddar cheese.

The company said the meat-free filling is not cooked in the restaurants in the same place as animal protein, but the tacos are prepared in the same prep area that does contain animal protein and dairy.

In addition to the tacos, the Beyond Meat option can be ordered as a substitute for any protein in existing items on the Del Taco menu, including burritos and fries, for an additional charge.

The local restaurants testing out the plant-based tacos are:


  • 141 Broadway Suite A, El Cajon
  • 1605 E. Valley Pkwy, Escondido
  • 1270 W. Valley Pkwy, Escondido
  • 110 W. El Norte Parkway, Escondido
  • 7060 Broadway, Lemon Grove
  • 1601 Carmelo Dr, Oceanside
  • 1970 College Blvd, Oceanside
  • 2269 S. El Camino Real, Oceanside
  • 1155 B Street, San Diego
  • 3896 Clairemont Dr, San Diego
  • 2804 Main St, San Diego
  • 7919 Mission Center Road, San Diego
  • 3106 Sports Arena Blvd, San Diego
  • 736 S. Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos
  • 9822 N. Magnolia Ave, Santee
  • 1037 E. Bobier Dr, Vista


If the test in San Diego is successful, the company will likely look to take the tacos to other markets.

Del Taco was founded in 1964 in Yermo, California, with a menu of 19-cent tacos and other items. Today, the chain operates 560 restaurants across 14 states.

Photo Credit: Del Taco]]>
<![CDATA[Dept. of Education to Cancel $150M in Student Loan Debt]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 09:48:06 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/devosAP_18071811337403.jpg

The U.S. Department of Education said Thursday it is cancelling $150 million in students loans connected to for-profit colleges, complying with a court order that essentially forced the Obama-era move to go through, NBC News reported.

The discharge of loans affects about 15,000 students who went to colleges that shuttered between Nov. 1, 2013 and Dec. 4, 2018, including Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had canceled memos imposing tougher rules on for-profit colleges and student loan debt, but lost a challenge brought by states including California.

The office of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee, said more than 100,000 students have outstanding claims. Murray said in a statement that, "it's disappointing that it took a court order to get Secretary DeVos to begin providing debt relief to students left in the lurch by predatory for-profit colleges."

Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP, File ]]>
<![CDATA[Top Secret Report: N. Korea Keeps Busting Sanctions]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 09:54:20 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/north-korea1.jpg

A top secret U.S. military assessment found that North Korea is still evading U.N. sanctions by transferring oil at sea, and that a coalition of U.S.-led forces deployed to disrupt the movements has failed to dent the overall number of illegal transfers, three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence told NBC News

The finding underscores the Trump administration's struggle to maintain economic pressure on North Korea amid a diplomatic bid to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile arsenal. The smuggled fuel provides a crucial lifeline for the regime's economy and armed forces. 

The U.S. Pacific Command assessment, labeled "Top Secret," found that the presence of warships and surveillance aircraft deployed by an eight-nation coalition since September has forced North Korea to adjust its tactics at sea, including transferring oil farther away from the Korean Peninsula and often in other countries' territorial waters. 

The White House and the State Department declined requests for comment. Click here for NBC News' full report.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[What About Petal? Orphaned NJ Mall Elephant's Uncertain Future]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 14:42:40 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Petal+Elephant.jpg

Inside the leaky, desolate confines of the building recently named New Jersey's saddest mall, only one tenant remains.

And not just any tenant. Petal, a life-size elephant made completely out of fiberglass, served as a memorable fixture of the Burlington Center Mall for the past 30 years.

Now, she’s facing eviction from the only place she has called home.

The local sculptor who designed and created the fountain elephant decades ago, Zenos Frudakis, says he’s gone on to complete more than 100 large pieces around the world. (Close to home, and perhaps most controversially notable, he also designed the Frank Rizzo statue. "I didn't vote for him," Frudakis said.)

But it’s clear that Petal holds a special place in his heart.

"The elephant was my first big piece,” he said. "I did it when I was still a student. ... It’s like my firstborn."

The elephant fountain was originally commissioned by Stockton Strawbridge, the scion of the Strawbridge and Clothier retail empire. Strawbridge had just returned from Africa and wanted children to be as thrilled by the elephants as he was.

Petal measures 11 feet high and 8 feet wide, 12 feet from front to back, and carries a full-size child on her back. Her informal name, Petal, comes from her real-life model at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Petal made her debut at the Burlington Center Mall in the summer of 1982. When the mall opened, it was anchored by Sears, Strawbridge’s (now Macy’s), and JCPenney’s among its 100 stores and restaurants. But 30 years later, it began to struggle.

In 2007, an incident of gang violence leading to temporary mall closures left some residents uncertain about its safety, NJ.com reported. In 2017, an Advance Media ranking of New Jersey’s malls called Burlington Center "rundown and deserted", placing it dead last. And finally, in January 2018, frozen pipes burst, damaging the fire alarm system and leading to officials’ decision to close the mall earlier than its previously scheduled shutdown in March, the South Jersey Courier Post reported.

Google reviewers call Burlington Mall a “ghost town” and an “asphalt wasteland,” although it isn’t the only one struggling to compete with the convenience of online shopping and the lure of to-door delivery. The American mall itself is dying; according to a 2017 report published in Fortune, 1 out of every 4 malls is projected to close by 2022

The plan is to demolish the shopping center. But even though the mall can’t be saved, Frudakis insists the elephant can be.

“A public work of art like Petal should find a home where it can be enjoyed,” Frudakis Studio spokesman John Xuereb said. “A public work that brought so much joy to so many people deserves to have another life.”

The mall's owners, Moonbeam Capital Investments, are willing to donate the sculpture to any organization for free, providing that they're willing to move it, according to the studio. 

The artist hopes somewhere like a non-profit organization, a zoo or a hospital can continue to enjoy Petal. But while several parties have expressed interest in adopting the parentless pachyderm, none have committed to take her.

That might be because of the cost of the fountain’s removal and installation, which Frudakis hopes to cover with a GoFundMe page. Petal has multiple fans, the studio said, who call her every week hoping to hear about the fate of their friend.

“Some of them came as children to see the sculpture, and have children of their own now,” Frudakis added.

For now, Petal’s still waiting in the now-defunct Burlington Center Mall. She’ll be there, Xuereb says, until she can be moved, either to a temporary or a permanent new home.

Photo Credit: Dan Farrell/NBC10
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<![CDATA[Delivery Driver Hurls Packages]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 08:49:36 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dublin_pkg_1213_5315736.JPG
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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shawn Mowry]]>
<![CDATA[More Involved in Death of Miami Woman in Costa Rica, Her Family Says]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 09:03:36 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/120418+Carla+Stefaniak+3.jpg

Family members of a Miami woman whose body was found when she didn’t return from a vacation in Costa Rica now say they believe more people were involved in her death.

On a Facebook page that was created during the search for 36-year-old Carla Stefaniak, who had failed to return from a trip for her birthday, family members say sources close to the investigation have told them forensic results have investigators believing more people were involved.

“In fact, the doubt extends to that there may be up 3 or 4 possible people involved,” the family wrote in a message Thursday night. “We have been saying this since day 1. This was organized by more than one person as soon as Carla booked the place.”

A security guard at the Airbnb where Stefaniak had been staying, Bismark Espinosa Martinez, has been arrested in connection with the case.

Sister station Telemundo 51 reached out to officials in Costa Rica, who said information on the case is "confidential."

Stefaniak was traveling with her sister-in-law when she was last heard from by her family on Nov. 27; she was scheduled to fly home the next day. While her sister-in-law flew home early, Stefaniak stayed but told friends it was “pretty sketchy” at the resort.

A partially buried body was found in the woods near that resort close to a week later, which was identified by Stefaniak’s father. An autopsy revealed that Stefaniak suffered a blunt force wound to the head and cuts on the neck and arms.

Family members brought Stefaniak’s ashes back to Tampa, where she lived after moving to America in 2000 from her native Venezuela for 12 years before moving to South Florida.

Photo Credit: Mario Caicedo]]>
<![CDATA[Juvenile Arrest Rates in SD Lowest in 10 Years: Report]]> Fri, 14 Dec 2018 12:31:00 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Handcuffs-Getty-1214.jpg

Juvenile arrests in the San Diego region are at the lowest rate they’ve been in a decade, according to a new report.

The report – released Friday by the San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) Criminal Justice Division – finds that, on average, San Diego law enforcement agencies made 13 juvenile arrests daily in 2017.

The report said the annual arrest rate was 13.9 per 1,000, which is a 76 percent drop from the arrest rate in 2008 of 56.9 per 1,000.

SANDAG Division Director of Criminal Justice Dr. Cynthia Burke said the statistics show the juvenile arrest rate in the San Diego region has declined over the past 10 years. This could be due, in part, to an increased focus across California on what the report cites as "prevention, diversion, and alternatives to detention."

However, San Diego County still had the second-highest juvenile and adult arrest rates in 2017 compared to the four other largest counties in Southern California. San Bernardino had the highest rate, followed by San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties.

The SANDAG report also looked at adult arrests in San Diego County in 2017, finding that, on average, 229 adults were arrested daily in San Diego County in 2017.

When comparing the juvenile stats against the adult stats, the report said the figures equate to about one juvenile arrest for every 19 adult arrests.

Also in comparison to juvenile arrests, the report shows adults were more often arrested for violent, drug-related and weapon offenses than minors. The report found that alcohol and drug-related offenses – including driving under the influence – were among the most common reasons for adult arrests. Adults between the ages of 20 and 29 had the highest arrest rate in San Diego County.

SANDAG said another notable statistic is the 9 percent decline in adult property offense arrests in 2017 compared to 2016.

“This decline in property-related arrests for adults may be related in-part to Proposition 47 which was passed in 2014 and reduced several property and drug-related offenses from felonies to misdemeanors,” Burke said in a press release.

The report also looked at gender across both the juvenile and adult arrests categories. On an average day last year, 172 adult males were arrested compared to 56 adult females. For all of 2017, SANDAG said 3,423 juvenile males were arrested across the San Diego region and 1,278 juvenile females.

SANDAG has been reporting crime statistics for San Diego since 1980. The data is used by local agencies to track public safety and improve the prevention of crimes.

To read this full report, click here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Threats Called in to San Diego Law Enforcement]]> Thu, 13 Dec 2018 23:23:12 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/threat+map1.png

A series of threats were called into businesses and law enforcement agencies in San Diego County amid a wave of bomb threats reported across the U.S. 

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department was responding to multiple calls from private businesses reporting bomb threats in communities like San Marcos, Vista and Lakeside. 

The first call was received at 10:21 a.m. at DEI Holdings on Viper Way in Vista, a company once ran by former congressman Darrel Issa. The company said all employees were sent home when it received the threat.

A similar threat was made to the Fix Auto Collision shop in Poway. A manager told NBC 7 employees were told to wait outside for around 45 minutes while deputies inspected the business.

The building was cleared following the inspection and opened back up later in the afternoon.

An email sent to Players Sports Grill in Poway threatened to detonate a bomb if the restaurant didn't hand over cryptocurrency. The restaurant owner told NBC 7 that deputies told him similar incidents were happening in Poway and gave him the option of closing his business or keeping it open.

One reporting party stated he was told to provide $20,000 or a bomb would be detonated.

Several other businesses received similar calls, deputies said.

"At this point, these are threats and there are no reports of explosives being detonated related to these e-mail threats," said Lt. Karen Stubkjaer.

She said the public should take the threats seriously and report them immediately to local law enforcement.

The San Diego Police Department told NBC 7 they have received calls from more than 10 locations in Miramar, Carmel Valley, Sorrento Valley, Otay Mesa, Kearny Mesa and Mission Beach.

The department said none of the reports officers responded to in the city were deemed credible.

A spokesperson for the local FBI office released this statement:

“We are aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety."

Local law enforcement agencies have not reported finding any explosives at this point.

Law enforcement authorities around the United States were responding to a wave of bomb threats, many of them sent by email.

The New York police department was monitoring "multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city."

Nearly a dozen threats were received at businesses throughout South Florida, including in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach. At least three others were reported in Orlando.

Massachusetts State Police are investigating after multiple bombs threats were allegedly mailed to "numerous businesses in the state." Authorities said the MSP Fusion Center is tracking the activity.

An employee at a Chicago-area hospital told authorities they received an email about a bomb threat to the building Thursday around noon. 

State police in Connecticut were investigating what they called several “suspicious incidents” across the state, including at a school in Griswold, the National Shooting Association and a plaza in Seymour.

This is a developing story

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<![CDATA[Here's How to Catch the Geminid Meteor Shower ]]> Thu, 13 Dec 2018 16:32:39 -0800 https://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/geminids.jpg

The Geminid meteor shower lights up the night sky each December, and this week it will be at its most visible, according to a NASA blog post

The Geminid meteors become active when Earth passes through a particularly massive trail of rocky space debris. When this debris enters Earth's atmosphere, it burns up and lights up the sky with "shooting stars." 

The debris comes from a strange rocky object named 3200 Phaethon.

To catch a peek of the fiery rocks, you'll have to find the darkest place you can, as many of the fainter meteors will be invisible due to light pollution. Still, NASA predicts that those in suburbs may see 30-40 meteors per hour, with varying changes depending on how close you are to a city. 

NASA recommends looking for them after 10:30 p.m. local time. The peak of this year's shower is expected on Thursday and Friday, around 2 a.m. local time. 

You can look out for when the meteors will be visible in your neighborhood at this link.

Photo Credit: Dr. Scott M. Lieberman/AP, File ]]>